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Cruel and Unusual?

Marvin Wilson
Photo credited to Texas Department of Criminal Justice/AP Photo
Chad W. Lutz
The Eighth Amendment was added to the Bill of Rights in 1791 in order to protect U.S. citizens from overbearing government policies concerning crime and punishment. In its text, the bill states: “excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted”. However, many political experts believe the execution of a death row inmate, which took place on Tuesday in a Texas execution chamber, violated his Eighth Amendment rights.

On Tuesday, August 7, 2012, Texas inmate Marvin Wilson was put to death by lethal injection. While this is a normal occurrence, someone being put to death in Texas, what’s unusual about the Marvin Wilson case is the inmate’s IQ. It was only 61.

Tested and confirmed by a court-appointed neuropsychologist, Marvin Wilson was declared, “intellectually disabled,” as reported by the day of the execution. Lawyers and opponents of the execution, including the ACLU of Texas, point to the 2002 ruling, Atkins v. Virginia. In the ruling, the Supreme Court found a Virginia law that allowed for the execution of handicapped individuals unconstitutional because it violated Eighth Amendment rights.

The case of Atkins v. Virginia involved the abduction of an army airman by two young buddies after a night of partying. Upon abducting the serviceman, the two friends drove the abducted to an isolated location and shot the man 8 times. It was after court-appointed psychologists carried out IQ tests that one of the defendants, Daryl Atkins, had an IQ of 59.